Thursday, February 28, 2019

The New Jerusalem Bible

The New Jerusalem Bible:
A Historic Work of the Roman Catholic Tradition 

[Written in 2011 for Protestants for the Common Good.]

NOTE:  This is a very long review, mainly because of the historical background included.  Anyone primarily interested in the New Jerusalem Bible itself should skip to that section of the review.  

Outline of this Review
      The Historic Background
            The Roman Catholic Bible:  Counter Reformation to Vatican I
            The Roman Catholic Bible:  Vatican I (1870) to Vatican II (1962)  
            Two Scholars Under the Modernist Ban:  Loisy and Lagrange
      The Editions of the Jerusalem Bible 
      The Jerusalem Bible (1966)
      The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)  
            Contents of the New Jerusalem Bible
            The Pentateuch:  Traditions, History, and Moses
            The Psalms – and Yahweh
            The Servant in Isaiah
            Composition of the Synoptic Gospels
            John and the “Coming” of Jesus
            Paul the Man and His Letters
      Evaluative Remarks 

A year or so ago I did an adult series at University Church in Hyde Park, Chicago, on “Three Historic Bibles in English,” and one of the Bibles described was the (New) Jerusalem Bible.  Nearly half of this review will be spent explaining why this Bible was “historic.”  
The Historic Background
The Roman Catholic Bible:  Counter Reformation to Vatican I
The first printed book in Western Europe was the Bible – the Gutenberg Bible (about 1453).  “Bible” at that time meant the Latin Bible, the Vulgate, the common Bible of the West from 400 CE on.  Until the sixteenth century, Christians of the West did not have or use the Old Testament in Hebrew or the New Testament in Greek (except for a few scholars in the Renaissance).  Particularly the Hebrew scriptures had never been declared to be the scripture of the Church.  The Christian Old Testament was the Greek version used in the Eastern churches and the Vulgate in the Western churches.  It was only with the Protestant Reformation that the Scriptures were declared to be the ancient writings in Greek and Hebrew, and only Protestants then began making translations from those ancient languages.  
The canon and text of the Christian Scriptures were conclusively defined for the Roman Church by the Council of Trent, that series of meetings between 1545 and 1563 in which the Roman Church reinvented itself after the Protestant Reformation.  Trent said the true and infallible scriptures of the Church are the Latin Vulgate – and later in the century an authorized printed edition of the Vulgate was published (the Sixto-Clementine edition of 1592-98).  English translations from the Vulgate could be used, but not translations directly from Hebrew or Greek.  These restrictions continued until the mid-twentieth century.  
The Church rejects Liberalism.  The French Revolution and Napoleon’s re-making of much of European culture set up a great struggle between conservatives and liberals.  As the nineteenth century developed, the papacy was tightly allied with the forces of conservatism.  The papacy especially opposed toleration of other religious communities within Catholic countries.  Liberal governments tended to dis-established the church, the national unifications of Italy and Germany created direct conflicts with the Church, and finally, the new Kingdom of Savoy (Italy) deprived the papacy of its extensive territories in central Italy (1870).  
The papacy’s reaction reached a climax in the famous (infamous) Syllabus of Errors (1864).  The Syllabus condemned eighty propositions advocated by political and religious liberalism, especially toleration by the state of any religion except Roman Catholicism, and the idea that “the Roman Pontiff can and ought to reconcile and harmonize himself with progress, with liberalism, and with modern civilization.”  (Quoted in Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church, rev. ed., Doubleday, 2005, p. 315.)  
In one of the ironies of history, the Ecumenical Council meeting at the Vatican in 1870 (Vatican I) had just proclaimed the infallibility of the Pope when the Kingdom of Italy deprived the papacy of its last earthly territories, except the small confines of the Vatican itself.  (The papacy refused to recognize this fait accompi until a deal was made with the Italian government under Mussolini in 1929.)  By hindsight, of course, the loss of territories in central Italy was the gateway to a new unprecedented global prestige and influence for the papacy.  
The Roman Catholic Bible:  Vatican I (1870) to Vatican II (1962) 
Under Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) the Roman Church turned to the social and economic realities of the modern world, especially the impoverishment of the laboring people of Europe.  “Social Catholicism” was born from the encyclical Rerum novarum (“of new things”; 1891).  
The Modernist Debacle (Thomas Bokenkotter’s title).  On theological and Biblical matters, however, Leo XIII and his curia remained medievalists, insisting on the sufficiency of the scholastic Thomas Aquinas.  This was the time in which critical methods of research were revolutionizing the study of Church History and the Bible in Protestant countries, as well as among some Roman Catholic scholars (Renan in France, Acton in England, Doellinger in Germany).  Under the impact of the new historical methods, a Catholic “Modernist” tendency developed.  (It was never coordinated enough to really be a “movement.”)  
Historical-critical methods and their results were condemned in the papal encyclical Providentissimus Deus (“most provident God,”1893).  
A perverse device has been introduced, to the bane of religion, under the pretentious title of “the higher criticism.”  According to it, the source, soundness, and authority of any book in the Bible is established only from internal evidence [as opposed to Church tradition]... [This approach allows] the foes of religion to challenge and ravel out the authority of the sacred books, and the higher criticism now so praised would reduce itself to a matter of each critic’s preference or bias in interpreting the books.  (Translation in Gary Wills, Why I Am a Catholic, Mariner Books [Houghton Mifflin], 2003, p. 202.)  
In 1902, the Pope created the Pontifical Biblical Commission, “which for decades would police Catholic thought on the Bible, threatening and punishing any exegetes who departed from its directives” (Wills, ibid.; Wills titles his chapter about this period, “Reign of Terror”).  Restrictions on the new approaches increased until a complete condemnation of ideas and publications was issued under Pius X in the encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis (“Feeding the Lord’s flock,”1907).  This was accompanied by a decree from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Inquisition) entitled Lamentabili sane exitu (“A lamentable departure indeed”), which was another list, like the old Syllabus, condemning sixty-five propositions about revelation, the Bible, and related matters – a list guaranteed to eliminate Modernist teachings from the Church.  
The description of this period by the Catholic historian Thomas Bokenkotter is grim.  
To extirpate Modernism, the Pope [Pius X, 1903-1914] called for measures that smacked of the worst features of the medieval Inquisition.  Vigilance committees were to be set up in every diocese to detect any sign of Modernist doctrines.  In addition, each diocese was to have a body of censors who were to watch over all literature in any way connected with the Church.  These agencies were to observe strict secrecy in all their proceedings [shielding accusers from accountability].  Seminarians were to be indoctrinated in the Scholastic system—in its Thomist form—as the basis of all sacred studies.  And finally, all priests and teachers were required to take an oath against Modernism.  (Concise History of the Catholic Church, pp. 352-53.)  
Modernism was indeed successfully stamped out, but at a tremendous price; the Catholic intelligence was inoculated against error, but the dosage was almost fatal.... Many of the Church’s most brilliant thinkers were silenced or driven out of theology and into a kind of spiritual schizophrenia.  Catholic seminaries remained medieval ghettos until the middle of the twentieth century, and future priests were taught a biblical fundamentalism ...  (Ibid., p. 354.)  
Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1943.  After one world war, the territorial settlement with the Italian state, and the escalation of dictatorships in Europe, the Vatican was a tiny island of neutrality in an Axis state while an even vaster world war raged.  Just as the Italian government was dismissing Mussolini and making peace with the Allies (September 1943), the Pope sent out this circular letter that would revolutionize Catholic Biblical studies.  
Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), who issued this encyclical, has been called “the patron of Catholic Biblical studies.”  His pontificate “inaugurated the greatest renewal of interest in the Bible that the Roman Catholic Church has ever seen.” (Raymond Brown in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland Murphy; Prentice-Hall, 1990, “Church Pronouncements,” p. 1167.)  The encyclical announced to Catholic scholars that, 
the time for fear was over and that Catholic scholars should use modern tools in their exegesis.  The stress on the use of the principle of literary forms [form criticism] to solve historical problems and the encouragement to make new translations of the Bible from the original languages (rather than from the Vulgate) were an invitation to Catholic scholars to begin writing freely again and to catch up with Protestant scholarship which had greatly outdistanced them during the preceding years of “trials and struggles.”  (Ibid., pp. 1167-68.)  
Divino Afflante Spiritu set in motion the work that produced, just over a decade later, the original Jerusalem Bible.  It is to be noted that the original French version of the Jerusalem Bible was published six years before the convening of the Ecumenical Council called Vatican II.  Vatican II did not make the Jerusalem Bible; it was more nearly the reverse!  
Some intricate developments led from Divino Afflante to Vatican II, but the bottom line is that Vatican II sustained and reinforced the instructions of the encyclical.  In a summary review, after Vatican II, Raymond Brown wrote:  
We may assure our non-Catholic brethren that the modern Catholic biblical movement inaugurated by Pius XII and confirmed by Vatican II and the PBC [Pontifical Biblical Commission] under Paul VI is now too much a part of the Church to be rejected, no matter what temporary setbacks or obstacles may lie in the future.  
(Raymond E. Brown, “Church Pronouncements,” Jerome Biblical Commentary, [1st ed.]; Prentice-Hall, 1968, Vol. II, p. 626.) 
Two Scholars Under the Modernist Ban:  Loisy and Lagrange
Two prominent Catholic scholars of the early twentieth century illustrate developments that led to secular historical treatment of the scriptures on one hand, and on the other to obedience to the wisdom of the Church that eventually produced the Jerusalem Bible.  
Alfred Loisy (photo from
Alfred Loisy is an example of a scholar who tried to stay in the Church during the Modernist purge, but who refused the ultimate compromises that that would have cost him.  Born in 1857, he was ordained a priest in 1879 and showed promise as a teacher and scholar.  He was influenced by the historical work of Ernst Renan and Abbé Duchesne before turning to the advanced German scholarship of the time.  Teaching Hebrew scriptures, he recognized that the opening chapters of Genesis, about creation and the flood, were similar to recently-discovered Babylonian religious texts of the same type and could not be read as literal history.  When a superior of some of his students withdrew them from his classes because of such teaching, Loisy wrote, 
It will some day be cause for astonishment, even in the Church of Rome...that a Catholic University professor should have been judged highly reprehensible for having said, in the year of grace 1892, that the narratives of the first chapter[s] of Genesis are not to be taken as literal history.”  (Alfred Loisy, The Gospel and the Church, ed. Bernard B. Scott; “Lives of Jesus Series,” Fortress Press, 1976, quote from Scott’s essay, “Loisy and Modernism,” p. xix.)  
Loisy went on to develop a view of the origins of Christianity that accepted out front and conspicuously that the Faith had developed.  There was a development from Jesus’ apocalyptic message of the coming Kingdom of God to the gradual establishment of a Church with rituals, sacraments, and church orders.  Loisy’s most famous quote is, “Jesus announces the kingdom, and it is the church that appears” (Ibid., p. xxxvii).  And for Loisy, “this statement is not only one of fact, but of necessity; the church had to come if the preaching of Jesus were to survive” (Ibid., p. xxxviii).  Loisy thought this understanding was a great apologetic advance for the Church in modern times.  
Loisy sought to be a champion of the Church in opposition to Protestant liberal theology, publishing in 1902 a book-length reply to Adolf Harnack’s Essence of Christianity (English title, What Is Christianity?), a widely popular statement of Protestant liberalism.  He wrote, however, from his historicist viewpoint, and the book was condemned by Church authorities in 1907.  
In 1908 Loisy was excommunicated from the Church, and went on to a distinguished career at the Collège de France from 1909 to 1931 as a historian of religions.  In those years he produced major commentaries on the Gospels, which were widely used by liberal Protestants, and wrote histories of the origin and development of Christianity.  He died in 1940.  
Fr. Marie-Joseph Lagrange was another scholar who was faced with the choice of bowing to Mother Church’s restrictions protecting orthodoxy or going on his own.  Before the crack-down of the 1900s, he had founded an important institution of Catholic research, the École biblique in Jerusalem (1890).  That continuing institution has a biography of Pere Lagrange on line:

Albert Lagrange was born on the 7th of March, 1855, in Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain). He got his doctorate in law before entering the Dominican Toulouse Province. There, he was given the name of Marie-Joseph. We are in 1879, and brother Marie-Joseph will be ordained priest in 1883.

He arrived at the École biblique [actually at the monastery of St. Stephen] in 1889, and from then on Father Lagrange was not idle: foundation of the École in 1890, of the Revue Biblique in 1892, of the Études bibliques series in 1898, development of archaeological research. All these “creations” become reference points which put the École in contact with scholars all over the world.

Father Lagrange began to run into difficulties from the time of his lectures about the “historical method,” delivered in 1902 in Toulouse; this is the beginning of what the historians will call the “Modernist Crisis.” During this time of suspicion, which will last up to the 30s, including one year of exile in 1912, and which will lead him to give up his Genesis Commentary, Father Lagrange always stayed absolutely faithful to the Church.

Father Lagrange died on the 10th of March, 1938, in Saint-Maximin (Var). After the publication of the encyclical letter Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) and World War II, the work and the personality of Father Lagrange came to be considered as exemplary. His remains were transferred to the choir of Saint Stephen’s Basilica [in Jerusalem]. The beatification process was begun in 1988, and everyone hopes that a recognized miracle will lead him soon to the altars.
It was Pere Lagrange and the École biblique that ultimately created the Jerusalem Bible.  Here is the story of the École, and the origin of the Jerusalem Bible, as told on its own website (  
The École Biblique is the oldest research institute in the Holy Land. It was founded in 1890 by Father Marie-Joseph Lagrange, OP (1855-1938) within the framework of the Dominican Monastery of St Stephen, Jerusalem, which had come into being in 1882. In order to highlight its specific methodology Lagrange called the new institution L’Ecole Pratique d’Etudes Bibliques, ‘The Practical School of Biblical Studies’. The Bible was to be read in the land in which it was written. It was to be studied in the physical and cultural context that gave it birth.... 

Lagrange had the extraordinary talent of spotting genius in very young scholars. Within ten years he had selected and formed a group of collaborators that was envied by every university faculty.... [The years and specialties of five such scholars are given.]  

During the fifty years of their intense interdisciplinary collaboration (1890-1940) the members of this small team published 42 major books, 682 scientific articles, and over 6200 book reviews. The articles and reviews were published in the periodical Revue Biblique, which was founded in 1892, and the books in the monograph series Etudes Bibliques, launched in 1900.

Beginning in the 1930s new faces appeared at the École Biblique. The second generation carried on the high tradition of serious scholarship started by their colleagues. Bernard Couroyer (1990 [read 1900]-1992) published widely in Egyptology while teaching Coptic and Arabic. Roland de Vaux (1903-1971) combined great competence as an exegete of the Old Testament with the skills of a field archaeologist. Raymond Tournay (1912-1999) produced the best modern translation of the Psalms. Pierre Benoit (1906-1987) and Marie-Emile Boismard (1916-2004) made highly original contributions to the study of the New Testament.

These scholars of the second generation were responsible for the famous Bible de Jérusalem (1956), which brought Lagrange’s program to fruition. It was revolutionary in concept and design. Specialists in each book of the Bible translated it from the original language. Detailed introductions and notes reflected the best in contemporary biblical scholarship. Poetry was printed as poetry, and prose as prose. It set the standard for all modern bibles. The latest English translation, the New Jerusalem Bible, was published in 1985.  
The Editions of the Jerusalem Bible
At all stages of the creation of the Jerusalem Bible the work was designed, executed, and/or supervised by the Dominican fathers of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.  The work had the following evolution:  
1) Between 1948 and 1955, forty-three fascicles (booklets) were produced, each giving a translation, introduction, and annotations of a Biblical book or books.  These were translated from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, not the Vulgate.  
2) In 1956 these fascicles were extensively revised to produce a one-volume work entitled La sainte Bible, traduite en francais sous la direction de l’Ecole biblique de Jérusalem, published by Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, with the imprimatur of the Archbishop of Paris.  The general editor at this stage was Father Roland de Vaux.  This edition was quickly nick-named La Bible de Jérusalem.  
3) The one-volume edition was modestly revised in 1961.  It was this edition that was translated into English.  
4) The Jerusalem Bible was published in 1966.  Alexander Jones, general editor, and a team of “collaborators” in the UK produced the translation.  It was a translation of the French introductions and notes, but with substantial consulting of the ancient languages in the translations of the Biblical texts.  
5) A “Reader’s Edition” of the Jerusalem Bible was prepared in 1968, significantly abbreviating the introductions and almost eliminating the notes.  It appeared in a particularly handsome edition in 1970 with illustrations by artist Salvador Dali. 
6) A new edition of the Bible de Jérusalem was published in 1973, with Father Pierre Benoit as general editor.  
7) The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985, was a translation of the French introductions and notes of the 1973 edition, with some updating by the English editor.  The Biblical text of this English edition, however, was entirely new and was translated directly from the ancient languages.  The general editor was Dom Henry Wansbrough – like Jones, a former pupil of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.  Wansbrough also worked with a team of collaborators in the UK.  
8) A third edition of the French work was published in 1998, but no new English translation has been made.  
9) A major revision is in the works under the title La Bible en ses traditions (BEST), “The Bible in Its Traditions.”  In addition to the present BdJ format, it will have expanded notes giving brief histories of interpretation of the respective Biblical passages through the ages.  
There are now on the new or used market many popular editions of both The Jerusalem Bible and The New Jerusalem Bible.  Most of these, however, have very abbreviated notes or no notes at all.  For example, The New Jerusalem Bible, “Standard Edition,” was published in 1999 (Doubleday), containing “The Complete Text of the Ancient Canon of the Scriptures,” giving only the NJB translation, no introductions or notes.  In this kind of terminology, the full scholarly edition of the NJB is called the “Regular Edition” – the 1985 version discussed in this review.  
A Protestant Estimate of the Original Bible de Jerusalem
In 1958 a Protestant Francophone Biblical scholar, Georges A. Barrois, published an article in Theology Today entitled “Reflections On Two French Bibles.”  One of the Bibles was the Bible de Jerusalem of 1956.  Barrois fully recognized the “historic” character of this new Roman Catholic publication.  
I do not think we have anything quite like this on the American market.... [The Oxford Annotated Bible of 1962 had not yet appeared.] The text is accompanied by substantial, compact notes, which include not only the usual cross references to key words, but also, at a deeper level, to things, events, or patterns of cultural and religious significance.  In many cases these notes yield as much relevant information as would a more bulky commentary, and they leave the reader all the more free from the kind of subjective indoctrination suggested by commentators eager to make, or stretch, a point.  The aim of the editors was to present non-specialists with a self-sufficient, self-explaining Bible.  [Nice definition of a “study Bible.”] They have succeeded.  
...The introductions and notes of the Bible de Jerusalem are remarkably free from narrow dogmatism.  It would be difficult to trace the various brands of theology professed by the religious families to which the editors belong, whether Dominicans, Jesuits, Benedictines, Sulpician Priests, or others.... 
Scripture is scrutinized by the editors of the Bible de Jerusalem for the objective value of its testimony, instead of being used as an arsenal of proof texts for the defense of dogma.... Scripture studies in the Roman Church are coming into their own or, to put it bluntly, Roman Catholic exegesis is tending to become more Catholic than Roman [!].  (Theology Today, XV, (1958), 212-13.)  
The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The Big-Picture Rationale.  General Editor Alexander Jones set the entire Jerusalem Bible enterprise in context by defining the world historical situation of Christianity:  
The form and nature of this edition of the Holy Bible have been determined by two of the principal dangers facing the Christian religion today.  The first is the reduction of Christianity to the status of a relic—affectionately regarded, it is true, but considered irrelevant to our times.  The second is its rejection as a mythology, born and cherished in emotion with nothing at all to say to the mind....  Now for Christian thinking in the twentieth century two slogans have been wisely adopted:  aggiornamento, or keeping abreast of the times, and approfondimento, or deepening of theological thought.  This double programme must be for the Bible too.  Its first part can be carried out by translating into the language we use today, its second part by providing notes which are neither sectarian nor superficial.  (“Editor’s Foreword,” p. v.)  
The Jerusalem Bible thus presents a very new and original translation, directly from the ancient languages (though sometimes via the French to the English) but intended for contemporary English speech.  Such a translation should eliminate archaisms and “old fashioned” speech, however beloved by past usage.  But the translator may not “substitute his own modern images for the old ones:  the theologian and the preacher may be encouraged to do this, but not the translator.”  Similarly, the translator cannot “impose his own style on the originals:  this would be to suppress the individuality of the several writers who responded, each in his own way, to the movement of the Spirit” (Ibid., p. vi).  
This translation introduced the use of “Yahweh” as the personal name of the God of Israel, instead of substituting “the Lord,” as most English translations since the Reformation had done.  This innovation will be commented on more fully below.  
The appreciation and evaluation of the JB translation is a task in its own right.  It is passed by here in order to give more attention to the New Jerusalem Bible version.  The two are quite different, and both translations continue to be widely available, but we will focus our attention on the NJB.  
The Introductions and Notes of both the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible are mainly taken from their respective French editions, and much of these remain the same across editions, both French and English.  As Jones’s overview statement indicated, these notes are to provide the theological depth of the Church’s presentation of its faith in the modern world.  They should explain both what happened in Israel and the early Church, and how those ancient experiences are illuminating for contemporary people of faith.  
Clearly, as Jones’s comments indicate, the Jerusalem Bible in all its forms was to present the Biblical basis of Christianity in its best historical light – for the teaching, apologetic, and pastoral needs of the [updated] twentieth-century Church.  

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) 

The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) was planned simply as an updating of the Jerusalem Bible (JB).  As work went along, it became more.  General Editor Henry Wansbrough later gave the following example of his work:  

[A] good deal of the Old Testament had received a preliminary re-translation by Alan Neame, who had worked on the 1966 edition.... I worked through the whole translation, making a minimum of a thousand or two changes to every book.  Some books (e.g. the Psalms) I translated afresh from the Hebrew and Greek.  Other books needed considerable revision, as they had been translated for the 1966 edition almost entirely from the French...  (Wansbrough’s account is on line at .)

Wansbrough states that he was guided by five “main principles” in revising the JB: 

1.      To improve the accuracy of translation, introductions and notes.  
2.      To remove elements which were narrowly Roman Catholic [such as references to the liturgy].  
3.      Where possible to use the same English word throughout for the same Hebrew concepts [to facilitate word studies].  
4.      In the synoptic gospels and other parallel sets of texts (e.g. the Books of Kings and of Chronicles) to show the differences between the text [to facilitate redaction critical studies].  
5.      Where possible to go some way towards using inclusive language.  (“Bruce Metzger was kind enough to write to me to say that NJB solutions had been most helpful to the Committee for the NRSV in the closing stages of their work.”) 

It is clear, then, that in The New Jerusalem Bible we have a thoroughly revised, even re-translated, version of The Jerusalem Bible.  Both these editions, however, give English dress to basically French scholarship on behalf of the renewed Roman Catholic Church. 

Contents of the New Jerusalem Bible

While the Jerusalem Bibles translate from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, the contents of the Bible are still determined by the Vulgate, the canon of scripture established by the Council of Trent.  The Table of Contents of the NJB (pp. viii-ix) lists 70 Biblical books, 43 in the Old Testament and the familiar 27 in the New.  There is no separate cluster of books called “Apocrypha.”  Rather, Tobit, Judith, and two Books of Maccabees come in their approximate historical position after Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther; Wisdom and Ben Sira follow the Song of Songs in the wisdom books; and Baruch, the prophetic book, follows Lamentations. 

This Contents lists only one book each for Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles – which is how these books appear in the Hebrew canon.  In the body of the book, however, the usual 1 & 2 Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are separated (as they were in the old Greek translations of the Jewish scriptures).  Thus, there are actually 46 books in the NJB Old Testament.  (There is a Preface that explains the relations of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles, p. xi.) 

There are “Supplements” at the end of the book, including a 20-page “Chronological table,” which lists in detail events, rulers, and literature in Biblical times with parallel columns showing what was happening in the rest of the world at the same time.  This table is as close as the NJB will get to a survey history of peoples, literature, and religion.  Historical topics are treated in notes as they come up in the Biblical books. 

The “Supplements” also contain a 20-page “Alphabetical Table of the Major Footnotes,” which is as close as we will get to a theological survey of the Bible.  This index often has good sub-topic breakdowns – for example, “baptism” with subs of “John’s,” “of Jesus,” “Christian,” “of Spirit and fire,” etc.  There are some peculiarities, however:  There is no entry for “God,” only for “gods” with no sub-topics.  The entry for “Jesus Christ” lists half a page of sub-topics.  As a study tool, this index can provide useful starts for topical studies. 

The overall approach of this study Bible is:  Get down to cases!  There is no general article on the Old Testament; rather we start right out with “The Pentateuch.”  This 12-page introduction has sub-headings on the composition, history, and religious significance of this basic part of the Bible, and well represents the overall approach of the Jerusalem Bibles to the Scriptures. 

The Pentateuch:  Traditions, History, and Moses

Having accepted the force of historical-critical approaches to the scriptures, the Jerusalem Bibles needed to find a way to interpret the Pentateuch historically but also maintain the basic authority of the revelation to Moses. 

First is the issue of the composition of the Pentateuch.  The classic “Documentary Theory” developed in the nineteenth century by Protestant scholars is reviewed.  But as Protestant scholars in the twentieth century have also recognized, that theory was unrealistically artificial about scissors-and-paste concepts of ancient literature.  What really existed were traditions, not documents.  Traditions lived attached to sanctuaries, on-going religious communities, and memories of ancestors.  They were modified, combined, and reformulated as time passed, becoming quite diverse and varied in language and style.  Only at relatively late stages were they written down – not as new compositions, but as preservations of authoritative recitations. 

Despite the characteristics distinguishing them, the Yahwistic and Elohistic traditions substantially tell the same story:  the two traditions thus have a common origin.  The tribal groups of south and north shared a common tradition marshalling the people’s memories of their history:  [the events are listed from Patriarchs to conquest]...  This common tradition had taken shape in oral, and possibly even in written form, during the period of the Judges, that is to say, when Israel was already beginning to exist as a nation.  (NJB, p. 9.) 

The Pentateuch can thus be recognized as a composition made up of Yahwistic, Elohistic, Priestly, and Deuteronomic traditions – now interwoven in complex ways to form the Law of Moses that Ezra brought to the post-exilic community in Judah around 450 BCE. 

And what of the history behind the traditions?  There are three separate issues:  the primeval history, the patriarchs, and Moses. 

The Primeval History.  One of the permissions of Divino Afflante Spiritu (the papal encyclical of 1943) was to take into account the literary genres of scripture as a preliminary to historical evaluation.  This means we do not have to confuse genuine folk lore for factual historical reports. 

The first eleven chapters of Genesis...give a description in popular style of the origin of the human race; in a simple, pictorial way suited to the mentality of unsophisticated people, they declare the fundamental truths on which the plan of salvation rests.  These truths are:  the creation by God at the beginning of time, God’s special intervention in the making of man and woman, the unity of the human race, the sin of our first parents, the fall...  All these are truths which have their bearing on theological doctrine and which are guaranteed by the authority of Scripture; but they are also facts, although we cannot know their nature, as they are presented to us in a mythological form consistent with the mentality of their time and place of origin.  (NJB, p. 11.) 

That is, when it comes to the narratives in the Primeval History, theological truth, as given for example by the apostle Paul (original sin), determines what are the truths of Scripture.  The narratives are like parables or allegories:  they portray a teaching that is the real point.  A story of creation authorizes the confession of God as creator.  Doctrine is definitely guiding interpretation here.  

Patriarchs.  The genre of the patriarchal stories is “family history.”  Such history “lingers over personal anecdotes and piquant details, making no attempt to situate its narratives in a wider historical context.”  The stories are also sacred history:  they are composed “to demonstrate a religious thesis:  there is one God, he has trained one people and given this people one country; this God is Yahweh, this people is Israel and this country is the Holy Land.”  (NJB, p. 11.)

One aspect of the patriarchal stories is now outdated.  “The old suspicious attitude towards these narratives [doubting their historicity] has had to be abandoned under pressure of recent discoveries made by historians and archaeologists of the Near East,” referring to various parallels between customs in Near Eastern texts and the patriarchal narratives.  The scholarly estimation of these parallels has dramatically reversed in the last 30 years, and the “historicity” of these narratives in any strict sense is better left unmentioned. 

Moses.  If we have a multitude of later traditions about Moses, what can be said about the man?  The basic answer is along the lines, If there was no explosion, how do you explain this huge crater? 

If we deny the historicity of these facts and of the person of Moses, the subsequent history of Israel, its loyalty to Yahwism and its attachment to the Law, defy explanation.... [It is true that the] historical reality behind the biblical figure of Moses remains shadowy.  [Nevertheless,] Israel, having become a people, thus enters world history and ... what the Bible says about it is in broad agreement with what texts and archaeology tell us about invasions of Egypt by groups of Semites, about Egyptian administration in the Delta, and about political conditions in Transjordan.  (NJB, p. 12.) 

Religious (Christian) significance.  The Jerusalem Bibles firmly insist on both the historical character of the Bible and on its permanent relevance for the religious life. 

The religion of the Old Testament, like that of the New, is a historical religion:  it is based on a divine revelation made to definite individuals at definite times and in definite circumstances, on the intervention of God at specific moments in the development of humanity.  The Pentateuch, tracing the history of God’s relationship with the world, is the foundation stone of the Jewish religion...

The Christian [on the other hand] is no longer under tutelage [by the Law, as Paul put it, Gal 3:15-29], but is freed from the observances of the Law, though not from its religious and moral teaching....  [As for the ceremonial law,] it is true that the one sacrifice of Christ has abrogated the Temple ceremonial, but Leviticus also insists on purity and holiness in those who serve God—and this is a lesson for all times.  (NJB, pp. 14-16.) 

The Psalms – and Yahweh. 

I have long regarded the NJB translation of the Psalms as the version that most often catches the punch, rhythm, and conciseness of the Hebrew in English.  In reviewing Psalm translations for the lectionary readings I always admire the smoothness and music of the NRSV, but when I read the Hebrew beside it, the NJB is again and again a more compelling equivalent.  (Subjective, indeed!  But I’ve been at it a while.)  One off-hand example:  Psalm 100:1, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands...” (RSV); “Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth...” (NJB).  The length and the stresses match those of the Hebrew.

According to his own report, this English is the final work of Henry Wansbrough himself – though certainly building on two generations of French scholarship and his JB predecessors. 

The name Yahweh.  This example raises the issue of using “Yahweh” instead of “the Lord” in English translations.  The NJB follows the innovation of the Bible de Jérusalem and the Jerusalem Bible in this usage. Conservative commentators often remark that the pronunciation of Yahweh is not “certain.”  That’s an excuse; the pronunciation is as sure as such things can reasonably be.  It is based on ancient transcriptions into Greek and Latin letters of how the name was pronounced.  (Incidentally, contrary to the often-heard sound of YAH-way, the correct pronunciation is Yah-wéh, first vowel short and flat as in “pat,” strong stress on the second syllable.) 

Using “Yahweh” undoubtedly puts a certain distance between the hearer/reader and the Lord God of our faith.  None of us learned to pray or sing to Yahweh.  When we really mean God, we don’t say Yahweh.  Only ancient Israelites did that.  (Possible exceptions may be those young enough to have grown up with the Jerusalem Bible.) 

Realistically, “Yahweh” is for scholars and people who want to hear the Hebrew scriptures more or less as Israelites heard and uttered them.  For such, Yahweh is definitely the right translation.  The Israelites – meaning anyone down past Ezra’s time – not only uttered the divine name Yahweh, they repeated it in public again and again.  They couldn’t say it enough in their prayers and prophecies.  The Name was God’s fame, reputation, and banner to the nations, and it was the name pronounced, shouted, hallelu-ed – most especially by the Yahweh-Only religious movement that gave us the great body of the Hebrew scriptures.  Yahweh is definitely the pronunciation for those who want the Israelite scriptures themselves. 

After about 300 BCE (beginning of the Greek period), monotheism had permeated religious awareness enough that the very idea of a personal name for THE God had altered pious sensitivity and we got the Jewish ban on the pronunciation of the Name.  The Greek translations of the Jewish scriptures (beginning around 250 BCE) followed the scribal practice of pronouncing “my/the Lord” wherever Yahweh appears in the Biblical texts.  The Hebrew text was not changed; only what one read when seeing the four letters YHWH.  And so we monotheists have continued to do ever since. 

About the psalms themselves, the NJB Introduction has the usual discussions of the literary forms:  hymns, “entreaties” (laments), thanksgivings, and “exceptional” psalms that don’t fit general categories.  The NJB discussion of “Royal psalms” is developed beyond that of the JB.  A Christian reading of the Bible has to get two things about the Messiah out of the Hebrew scriptures:  the Anointed One in Glory, and the Anointed One who suffers.  What are usually called the Royal psalms present the Anointed One in Glory. 

They concern a king of their own period, and Ps 2, 72, 110 could have been enthronement psalms.  The king is said to be son of God, his reign to be endless and stretching to the ends of the earth; he is to make peace and justice triumph and to be the saviour of his people.  The expressions may seem extravagant, but they do not go beyond what other neighbouring people said of their sovereign and what Israel hoped of theirs....

[A] number of these ancient royal chants, still in use after the fall of the monarchy... fostered the expectation [of a Messiah] on the eve of our era, and Christians saw the realisation of this hope in Christ (a title which signifies Anointed in Greek, as Messiah does in Hebrew).  (NJB, 1985 ed., p. 812.) 

On authors and dates, NJB allows that some psalms at least came from David himself, but most were later.  Many “go back to the monarchical period, in particular all the royal psalms... The Psalms of the Kingship of God, on the other hand, with their many echoes of earlier psalms and of the second part of Isaiah, must have been written during the Exile...” (p. 814). 

The Servant in Isaiah

The NJB has one long Introduction to the Prophets (pages 1157-1189) that covers both prophecy in general and all of the individual prophetic books – not a very convenient arrangement for studying separate prophets.  The Introduction includes sections on the nature of prophecy, the history of the prophetic movement, the teaching of the prophets, and the prophetic books – before discussing each book separately. 

In the JB, “the Teaching of the prophets” was grouped under Monotheism, Morality, and Messianism.  The NJB gives up the alliteration and titles the third section “Future salvation,” and rewrites it substantially.  It is in this Messianic future that we find the suffering Servant. 

[D]espite disappointments and the bad behaviour of most of David’s successors, we find the hopes of the prophets Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah still centred on an individual king, in the near or in the distant future.  The Messiah (for at this point in history, the capital letter is appropriate) would be of Davidic descent ... [and several traditional Messianic passages are listed].  (NJB, p. 1165.) 

A summary passage about the Servant in Isaiah in JB was substantially rewritten in NJB: 

Embedded in the book [of Isaiah] are four lyrical passages...[that] depict a perfect servant of Yahweh—re-gatherer of his people and light of the nations—one who preaches the true faith, who expiates the people’s sins by his own death and is glorified by God....The identify of the servant is much disputed, being regarded by many as a personification of the community of Israel...  The characteristics of the servant are, however, very strongly drawn; hence other exegetes, today the majority, consider the servant to be a historical person, either of the past or of the Second Isaiah’s own times.  From this point of view, the most attractive suggestion is to identify the servant with Second Isaiah himself and to suppose that the fourth song [in which the servant dies] was added after his death.  A third theory synthesizes both these interpretations by holding that the servant was indeed an individual [such as a king] who in some way embodies the destiny of his people.  (NJB, pp. 1169-70.) 

Composition of the Synoptic Gospels

The Western Church from Augustine on had regarded Matthew as the earliest of the Gospels.  Mark and Luke had simply made different selections from the large pool of apostolic tradition, and John had written his “spiritual” Gospel to supplement what the others had done.  The priority of Matthew has been maintained by Roman Catholic scholars, in contrast to Protestant scholars who, by the late nineteenth century, mostly saw Mark as the earliest of the Gospels. 

In the Jerusalem Bible, the Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels follows, without naming him, the French scholar L. Vaganay (Le Problem Synoptique, 1954).  Vaganay defends the priority of Matthew by making the original Matthew an Aramaic document, subsequently translated into Greek, used in an early stage by an early-stage Mark, which was later in turn used by the writer of the final form of the Greek Matthew – thus achieving an original dependence of Mark on Matthew, then an ultimate dependence of Matthew upon Mark.  All of those hypotheses were needed to find a way of integrating detailed scholarship with the Church’s tradition.  Much too complex and hypothetical to be historically credible. 

NJB shifted to another French scholar, also not named in the text, M-E Boismard (Synopse des quatre evangiles, 1972-77), whose theory was even more complex, assuming three stages of documents leading to the final Gospels.  The NJB makes a valiant effort to explain these complexities for a general reader, and the narrative of how things went from early oral transmission to first documents is clear and interesting (NJB, p. 1601 bottom to 1602 middle).  Then the various documents, in various languages, with various interdependencies set in, and most readers would abandon the effort and just get on with the actual Gospels! 

The point of these theories was to find a place for every small detail in the Gospel texts as a part of a master scheme in line with Church tradition.  It is very much a case of trying to salvage Ptolemy’s theory of the universe.  The equivalent of Copernicus’s heliocentric theory here would be to abandon the priority of Matthew.  (On these and other Gospel composition theories by Catholics, see Frans Neirynck, “Synoptic Problem,” New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice-Hall, 1990, pp. 587-595.) 

Perhaps it is significant that when the Introduction begins to discuss the individual Gospels – it begins with Mark rather than Matthew! 

John and the “coming” of Christ

The Gospel According to John should be congenial to Catholic tradition because it presents one major way of keeping the divine presence in the world for the Church after Jesus’ departure.  The NJB description of this theological shift is well done. 

In the Synoptic Gospels the revelation of Christ’s glory is associated primarily with the eschatological ‘coming’, his return at the end of time, Mt 16:27seq.  The basic elements of traditional eschatology:  the expectation of the ‘Last Day’... of the ‘coming’ of Jesus ... of the resurrection of the dead ... and of the last judgement ... are all found in the fourth Gospel, but in it this eschatology receives a new and double emphasis:  not only is the End here and now—it is also an inner principle and not an external event.  In this way, the ‘coming’ of the Son of man is interpreted primarily as the ‘coming’ of Jesus to this world through the Incarnation, his ‘lifting up’ on the cross, and his return to his own disciples through the Holy Spirit.  In the same way the ‘judgement’ is presented as something already taking place in human hearts, and eternal life (John’s counterpart of the synoptic ‘kingdom’) is made to be something actually present, already in the possession of those who have faith.  (NJB, p. 1739.) 

This transition from the apocalyptic message of Jesus to the religious life of the early Christian communities is the greatest issue in modern scholarship about “the historical Jesus.”  Perhaps wisely, the NJB has no place that it directly addresses these issues.  There is no discussion of the historical Jesus as such in the entire volume.  The introductions to the Gospels confine themselves to unfolding the structure and message of each work.  There is no summary of the overall teachings of the Gospels. 

Only in the discussion of the Gospel of Mark do we get a succinct statement of the history of Jesus: 

All the same, this outline [of Mark’s Gospel], broad as it is, does trace for us an important development which is both factually and theologically significant.  The general public received Jesus warmly at first but their enthusiasm waned as they found that his gentle and other-worldly conception of the Messiah did not fulfill their hopes.  As a result, Jesus left Galilee to devote himself to the instruction of a small group of faithful followers, and the profession of faith at Caesarea Philippi showed that he had secured their faith.  This was a decisive turning-point:  after it Jerusalem became the focus of attention, and it was there that further opposition continued mounting, only to end in the drama of the Passion and in the final triumph of the resurrection.  (NJB, pp. 1604-05.) 

This basic outline is taken up and expanded in major ways by Matthew and Luke.  For them, as well as for us, this sketch is the framework for the Jesus of history. 

Paul the Man and His Letters

If the Gospel of John is particularly congenial to Catholic tradition, Paul is certainly a special interest of Protestant tradition.  The NJB has one long Introduction to the Letters of Paul, all of them, including Hebrews.  However, as with the Gospels, there is no section summarizing Paul’s thought or theology.  The topics are the Chronology, Paul’s Character, his Preaching, and his Journeys and Letters (which contains introductions to each separate letter).  At the critical points bearing on Justification by Faith, the notes enter into no dialogue with Protestants, but simply give solid expositions of what Paul actually says.  (See, for example, the long note h on faith, at Romans 1:16.  Also the references for “Justification” in the Table of Major Footnotes, p. 2089.) 

Perhaps surprising may be some of the statements about “Paul as Preacher.” 

Paul does not seem to have had a very vivid imagination, to judge from his sparing and pedestrian use of imagery:  the sportsground, 1 Co 3:6-8; Ph 3:12-14; and the sea.  Two images, farming, 1 Co 3:6-8, and building, Rm 15:20; 1 Co 3:10-17, are so basic that he often mixes them, 1 Co 3:9; Col 2:7, compare Col 2:19.  His genius was much more intellectual than imaginative, his enthusiasm was never divorced from the rigid logic with which he explains his teaching and adapts it to the needs of his audience.  It is to this intellectual need to adapt his teaching to the occasion that we owe the remarkable theological analysis to which he repeatedly submits the kerygma.  (NJB, p. 1852.) 

Some Evaluative Remarks

My evaluation of the NJB is mainly positive.  I think the original Jerusalem Bible was a great achievement for its “historic” moment, and the NJB is an excellent recreation of it in English.  It’s now getting out of date, as far as scholars are concerned, but most of its virtues are enduring: 

The NJB is ecumenical.  The assessment of the original French Bible of Jerusalem by the Protestant George Barrois (see above) is certainly applicable also to the English versions.  There is little that is parochially Roman Catholic in this very scholarly study Bible.  This work stands as a rigorous but reverent presentation of the Christian Bible.  Most of all, it engages in no polemics against or disparagement of other traditions, and is quite gentle in its manner of departing from old (pre-critical) ideas about scripture.  The Jerusalem Bibles represent a new beginning; old divisions within Christendom are basically disregarded, and the common Biblical foundation of the faith is what is presented. 

The NJB is historical-critical.  The papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu opened modern methods of Biblical study and interpretation to Roman Catholic scholars, and the Jerusalem Bibles embody their mastery of those methods.  Contrary to the old “Modernist” tendencies, historical methods do not have to be, overtly or covertly, anti-Church or destructive of faith.  In God’s wisdom, even rigorous historical truth is not only reconcilable with faith, but opens new insights and understandings that the old fixed traditions could not recognize.  This is certainly the affirmation and commitment that this Biblical work presents on behalf of the Church. 

This commitment means that the Pentateuch and the Gospels are recognized as having been shaped over periods of time, with successive human custodians of the traditions.  That does not somehow contaminate or invalidate these writings.  “This process of editing itself took place under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who directed the community and its spokesmen both in the preservation and in the selection and arrangement of the material” (NJB, p. 1604).  Great hassles about “authorship” of Deuteronomy, Daniel, or Ephesians are unnecessary.  This openness to the historically-conditioned character of the traditions frees Biblical interpretation of many of the boxes a literalistic Evangelical reading often creates. 

In general, the approach of the Jerusalem Bibles is:  the history was real, and the human experience was real.  By “history” is now meant the basic core of facts recovered from the traditional texts, but also real was the religious experience that produced the texts as we read them. 

The NJB is scholarly.  As Protestant Biblical studies show, commitment to historical-critical work means the scene is constantly changing.  Each scholarly generation (approximately 20 years) brings out new discoveries, new theories to explain both the old data and the new, new methods that produce quite different readings of old texts.  Scholars have to (or get to) keep up with these developments – and this is one reason study Bibles are revised every generation. 

The NJB reviewed here, published in 1985, presented Biblical scholarship essentially as it was in the French edition of 1973.  That means the NJB is not now up-to-date, by scholarly standards.  For example, the discussion of the relationships of the Synoptic Gospels would probably be different now (see above).  For the general reader, however, this is a minor issue.  The basic historical approach together with a respectful attitude toward the faith expressed in the texts does not change quickly. 

The NJB waits upon Theology.  The NJB fully develops the commitment of the Church to historically-informed readings of the scriptures, but it does not impose more than necessary on the territory of Christian theology.  It does not give a systematic discussion of the relation between historical events and faith affirmations; it does not discuss as a theological issue “the historical Jesus”; it does not give a systematic exposition of Paul’s theology; it does not discuss critically New Testament texts impugning Judaism.  These require different formats of discussion and different approaches than those specific to Biblical study.  The NJB offers Biblical foundations for theologians without preempting their work. 

The NJB is quiet about anti-Judaism.  In the places that current New Testament interpreters usually talk about the anti-Jewish attitudes in the text, there is little notice of the issue in the NJB notes.  At Matthew 27:25 (“his blood be on us and on our children”), for example, we have only this:  “Traditional OT phrase, 2 Sam 1:16; 3:28-9, cf. Acts 18:6, by which they accept responsibility for the death they demand.”  There is no discussion in the Introduction to John of the complex use of the expression “the Jews” in that Gospel.  Nor are there comments about Christian views of “supersessionism” in connection with Matthew, Acts, or Romans 9-11. 

This became a hot-button issue in the late twentieth century, as it probably was not for French scholars in 1973.  It would probably receive rather different treatment in a new version of the Jerusalem Bible. 

The NJB presents a New Translation.  The original Jerusalem Bible of 1966 gave a new and rather free translation into English.  It translated the “meaning” somewhat more than simply the words of scripture.  It has proved enduring – still in print, still selling in used book markets.  It has remained the usual version quoted by Karen Armstrong in her many Biblical writings.  The translation in the NJB pulled back some on the free-ness of the translation, aiming more at a word for word treatment of important theological terms than did the JB (see Wansbrough’s statement quoted above). 

The jury is probably still out on the use of “Yahweh,” at least in liturgical readings and songs.  (See a Catholic News Service press release of August 12, 2008, on removing Yahweh from hymns.)  

Historians of religion certainly appreciate having a widely-known English version that tells about Israel’s great God as he was really known: 

“so that these too may know that I am Yahweh,” Ezekiel 12:20, NJB.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The HarperCollins Study Bible

The HarperCollins Study Bible

The Publisher and the Society

[Written in 2011.]

The most distinctive feature of the HarperCollins Study Bible is the collaboration between a major publisher and the professional scholars of the Society of Biblical Literature.  Each member of this partnership brought a distinguished and venerable heritage to their common enterprise. 

Outline of the Review
            The Society
            The Collaboration
            On the Way to the Study Bible
                        An Earlier Detour
                        The Mainline Project
            The First Edition (1993)
                        The General Editor
                        The Associate Editors
            The Revised Edition (2006)
            The General Articles
            Samples of Interpretation
                        Genesis Revisited
                        The Exodus and History
                        Leviticus and the Holy
                        The Book of Kings and Its “Message”
                        The Unity of Isaiah
                        Matthew Joins the Empire
                        Mark, Well Introduced
                        Paul’s Letters
            Some Evaluative Comments


Harper Brothers was a major publisher of books and magazines in New York in the nineteenth century (founded in 1817), featuring such authors as the Brontë sisters, Dickens, and Mark Twain as well as several Harpers magazines.  


In 1962 the firm merged with Row, Peterson and Co. to become Harper & Row.  Their first study Bible was published at just that time.  (See below about this work, edited by Harold Lindsell.)  
The Collins part of the HarperCollins combination was a British firm, William Collins and Sons, founded in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1819.  It featured dictionaries and religious books in the nineteenth century, and added popular juvenile and crime fiction in the twentieth, with collections by Agatha Christie and Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe), later acquiring the rights also to the works of the religious writer C.S. Lewis.  
In 1987, Harper & Row was acquired by News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s vast media empire, and in 1990 William Collins and Sons was added to create the umbrella group HarperCollins, a worldwide book publishing enterprise using many different “imprints.”  Among these “imprints” is Zondervan, the religious publishing firm that held the rights to the New International Version (NIV) of the English Bible after 1973.  Zondervan was acquired by the Murdoch group in 1988.
(See the HarperCollins Company website at ).  
The Society
The 1880s marked a great upsurge in higher education in the United States, especially in newly institutionalized graduate education.  While earlier periods had seen clubs and societies dedicated to shared cultural and artistic pursuits, the 1870s and 1880s saw the rise of professional societies for the promotion of particular academic disciplines.  

The American Philological Association was founded in 1869, the American Social Science Association in the same year, the Archeological Institute of America in 1879, the Modern Language Association in 1883, and the American Historical Association in 1884.  The rise of many academic empires lay in the beginnings of such societies, and the Society of Biblical Literature was right in the middle of the action.  

The purpose of the Society was to promote rigorous standards of scholarship in the teaching of the Bible, especially in colleges and seminaries.  The Society began in New York in 1880, initially proposed by Professor Frederic Gardner of Berkeley Divinity School in Middletown, Connecticut.  (For all this see, Ernest W. Saunders, Searching the Scriptures:  A History of the Society of Biblical Literature, 1880-1980, Scholars Press, 1982.  Available on line [].) 

Prominent members at the beginning were Philip Schaff (in whose office the planning meeting was held) and Charles Augustus Briggs (later of Briggs Heresy Trial fame), both of Union Theological Seminary in New York, and James Strong of Drew Theological Seminary in New Jersey (the Strong of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance fame).  Eighteen scholars attended the first meeting in June of 1880, but by year-end forty-five members were registered and in the following year the publication of the Journal began, giving to scholars at large the papers delivered at the meetings.  A pattern was established of semi-annual meetings, in June and December, times geared to breaks in the academic year.  
Until the middle of the twentieth century the Society was heavily oriented to the northeastern region of the United States, though other regional meetings were initiated early on.  In the post-World War II explosion of higher education, membership greatly expanded, regional meetings proliferated, and publications by the Society multiplied.  In the 1960s, tax-supported universities began to teach religion as an academic discipline, and Biblical scholars were in more demand as teachers of religion.  In this context, the Society became significant not only as an exchange of scholarship but also as a market for academic appointments.  
In the later twentieth century the Society became the platform for many nearly-autonomous specialized groups, focusing on narrower and narrower areas of study.  The most prominent of these was “the Jesus Seminar,” which eventually spun off its own organization and publishing house.  
The current Society is a renowned international body with 8,700 members, 30% of which are from outside the United States, 23% of which are women, and 28% of which are students.  (See the 2010 Annual Report [].) They gather in eleven regional meetings in North America as well as at the giant Annual meeting in November of each year.  The prestigious Journal of Biblical Literature is in its 130th year of publication.  It now publishes only scholarly articles (not reviews) each quarter, with the large volume of book reviews covered in a separate publication, the Review of Biblical Literature, new installments of which are available to members by email every couple of weeks.  
The Collaboration
The collaboration between Harper and the Society of Biblical Literature actually predates the formation of HarperCollins.  It began with Harper’s Bible Dictionary, published by Harper & Row in 1985.  (A revised edition of the Dictionary was published by HarperSanFrancisco, an imprint of HarperCollins, in 1996.)  That Dictionary was presented as an entirely new work created by the Society of Biblical Literature, which holds the copyright.  
This dictionary stands as the latest in the long line of Harper’s Bible dictionaries that have provided help in understanding the world of Scripture.  This is, however, a totally new edition. ...It also represents a unique venture in the field of publishing since it is the result of a cooperative project between a major learned society, the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), and a major publishing house, Harper & Row.  In this joint effort, the Society of Biblical Literature has assumed responsibility for the content of the Dictionary, while Harper & Row has handled matters of format and editorial style.  This has assured the widest circulation [Harper’s part] of what is surely the most authoritative volume in its field [SBL’s part].  (From Preface to the 1st ed., The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, rev. ed., Paul J. Achtemeier, gen. ed, 1996, p. xix.)  
The success of the collaboration between the publisher and the Society prompted them to go forward with a second enterprise, Harper’s Bible Commentary, James L. Mays, gen. ed., Harper & Row, 1988.  (The revised edition of 2000 was entitled The HarperCollins Bible Commentary.)  This work provided general articles on the Biblical world, on major parts of the Bible, and individual commentaries on all the books of the Hebrew scriptures, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament. The Commentary is linked throughout by cross references to the articles in the Dictionary, making the volumes as complementary as possible.  
This collaboration brought together the major association of Biblical scholars in North America and a publisher with outstanding experience and competence in designing and publishing resources for Biblical study.
The orientation and viewpoint of these scholarly volumes (and thus of the Study Bible yet to come) is expressed at the beginning by Paul Achtemeier:  
The 179 scholars who have contributed their knowledge and skills to this [Dictionary] come from some seven countries, and are acknowledged experts in the fields about which they have written here.  They were chosen because of their knowledge and their ability to communicate to scholars and nonscholars alike.... The authors do not, however, write from any confessional perspective, but rather from the broad perspective of expert biblical knowledge.  Their intention is not to convert the reader to a particular religious point of view, but rather to provide information and to aid understanding.  (Preface of 1985, Dictionary, p. xix.)
This scholarly objective, as distinguished from a religious confessional one, is a primary feature of all the works in the HarperCollins–SBL collaborations.  
On the Way to the Study Bible
An Earlier Detour.  Three decades earlier, the idea of a Harper Study Bible had taken an entirely different route.  Right after Harper & Row was formed in 1962, it published the Harper Study Bible, Revised Standard Version, Prepared and Edited by Harold Lindsell, 1964.  Harold Lindsell was a prominent Evangelical Protestant, who had been a founding faculty member of Fuller Theological Seminary in Southern California in 1947, and had risen to be Vice President of the Seminary in 1964.  Lindsell had spent six years creating this study Bible, dividing the RSV text into small units with topical headings, creating a marginal cross-reference system, writing introductions to all the Biblical books, and providing annotations running throughout.   
Unlike the later HarperCollins Study Bible, the Lindsell Harper Study Bible was deliberately confessional.  
...[T]he Harper Study Bible is amplified by hundreds of interpretive notes written from the standpoint of conservative theological scholarship.... Major doctrines of the Christian faith are frankly set forth, obscure passages are brought to light, terms are defined, and parables are clearly explained.  (Harper Study Bible, Harper & Row, 1964, pp. xiii-xiv.)  
Unlike other Evangelicals of his time, Lindsell apparently had no fear of the Revised Standard Version (soon to be replaced for Evangelicals by the New International Version [NIV]).  He set out to make the dreaded RSV an instrument of God’s Word for Evangelical students of the Bible.  (A reissue of the Lindsell Harper Study Bible with the New Revised Standard Version text is listed as a Harper item in 1991.)  
However sales and acceptance went with the 1964 Study Bible, Harold Lindsell gained major public notice with his book Battle for the Bible (Zondervan, 1976), which set Evangelicalism aflame over the issue of “inerrancy” of the Bible.  The future of Harper and its Study Bible lay elsewhere, however, with a different collaboration of the Publisher with the world of Biblical scholarship.  
The Main Line Project.  The HarperCollins Study Bible was originally planned as a third member of the collaborative work between the Society and the Harper publishers, though a couple of matters changed along the way.  First, HarperCollins was formed.  There was new overall management and changes of names and personnel.  It must have been clear, however, that Harper & Row had a couple of winners going in the religious field with their Dictionary and Commentary, and the obvious continuation to the next stage was not interrupted.  
However, a new mainline Protestant version of the English Bible had appeared just at the time HarperCollins came on the scene.  The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) had been released by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.  Like its predecessor, the Revised Standard Version, the NRSV quickly became the standard English Bible, not only for great numbers of Protestants (meaning most non-Evangelicals), but also for large parts of the academic world as well.  The Harper Bible Dictionary and Harper Bible Commentary, in their first editions, had been geared to the RSV, but the now-to-be-completed Harper(Collins) Study Bible would be based on the new version, the NRSV.  

The General Editor of the Study Bible explained the value of the NRSV as follows:  
The NRSV is selected for this HarperCollins Study Bible for several reasons...  First, the declared intention of the Translation Committee to produce a translation “as literal as possible” makes this version well adapted for study.  For example, careful reading is enhanced when we can observe such things as the recurrence of certain key words; if these are rendered into our language with some consistency, the task [of performing a word-study, for example] is obviously easier.  Second, the NRSV was designed to be as inclusive as possible, in two different senses.  It includes the most complete range of biblical books representing the several differing canons of scripture...  In addition, it avoids language that might inappropriately suggest limits of gender.  (“Introduction to the HarperCollins Study Bible,” 1st ed., p. xvii.)  
The First Edition (1993)
The HarperCollins Study Bible was first published in 1993, four years after the appearance of the New Revised Standard Version.  HarperCollins thus beat Oxford University Press with a study Bible based on the NRSV by eight years—Oxford  only producing The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Third Edition, in 2001.  This was a valuable lead in the academic market for textbook Bibles.  While the Revised edition of the Study Bible, published in 2006, is the focus of this review, the first edition was the major creation, and its editors (not continued in the Revised edition) played the chief role in selecting contributors and overseeing their work.  (The original editors will be discussed here; contributors will be discussed under the Revised Edition below, since most of them remained the same and often their work was hardly changed in the Revised Edition.)  
The General Editor.  The master overseer was Wayne A. Meeks, a widely known and esteemed New Testament scholar at Yale University.  Meeks grew up in Alabama, majored in Physics in college and graduated from Austen Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1956. After four years as a campus minister, he earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in New Testament at Yale University.  He had brief teaching positions at Dartmouth College and Indiana University before becoming a professor in the Religious Studies Department at Yale (not the Divinity School), eventually occupying the Woolsey Professorship of Biblical Studies.  He became emeritus in 1999 and has since been visiting professor at several prestigious institutions.  See his perceptive autobiographical statement about the world of religious studies during his career, which he gave in an interview recently at Smith College, where he is currently visiting “Neilson Professor.” (See ) [Smith website for 2010 no longer available.]
Meeks’ scholarship focused on the early Christian social world, and his most famous work is The First Urban Christians: the Social World of the Apostle Paul, Yale University Press, 1983, translated into Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Korean, and German, with a second English edition in 2003.  Other works pursued the same line of inquiry, The Moral World of the First Christians (1986) and The Origins of Christian Morality (1993).  These were the studies he was engaged in at the time he edited the HarperCollins Study Bible.  His most recent major work is Christ Is the Question, redirecting recent preoccupations with the historical Jesus (Westminster John Knox, 2006).  
By the 1980s Meeks was a prominent and respected figure in the academy, serving as President of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1985.  He was an excellent choice for general editor of the new SBL-HarperCollins project.  His only contribution as writer was the careful and balanced, “Introduction to the HarperCollins Study Bible,” but the recruitment of contributors and seeing their work through the editorial process was a major behind-the-scenes task.  
The Associate Editors.  Much of the direct contact with contributors was done by the four Associate Editors, each of whom was responsible for a section of the Bible.  

Jouette M. Bassler, Professor of New Testament at Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University), assisted with the New Testament contributions.  She had done her Ph.D. at Yale in Pauline studies, her dissertation published in the SBL dissertation series in 1982, Divine Impartiality:  Paul and a Theological Axiom.  She was thus well-known to Wayne Meeks.  She edited several volumes on Pauline Theology in the SBL Symposium series, and, after the Study Bible had come out, she served as editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature from 1995 to 1999.  She was presented with a fine celebration volume at her retirement, The Impartial God, edited by Calvin J. Roetzel and Robert L. Foster (Sheffield:  Phoenix, 2007).  
Werner E. Lemke, Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, was one of two Associate Editors responsible for the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  Lemke had come from Germany as a child, took a B.A. at the University of Illinois in Chicago, a B.D. at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, and did his doctorate in Theology at Harvard University, studying with G. Ernest Wright and Frank M. Cross.  He taught at Colgate Rochester from 1966 until his retirement in 2003.  Lemke had done archeological work at the Gezer site in Israel, and was a contributor to the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary.  Beside his editorial work on the Study Bible, he contributed the introduction and notes to the book of Lamentations.  
Susan Niditch, Samuel Green Professor of Religion at Amherst College, was the second Associate Editor on the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  Ms Niditch graduated from Radcliffe College in 1972 and completed a Ph.D. in Old Testament at Harvard University in 1977.  She has concentrated especially on folklore, as in Underdogs and Tricksters:  A Prelude to Biblical Folklore, Harper & Row, 1987, and right after the HC Study Bible came out she published War in the Hebrew Bible:  A Study in the Ethics of Violence (Oxford UP, 1993), Oral World and Written Word (Westminster, 1996), and Ancient Israelite Religion (Oxford UP, 1997).  Most recently she has done a major commentary on Judges (Westminster John Knox, 2008) and more folklore motifs in “My Brother Esau Is a Hairy Man”:  Hair and Identity in Ancient Israel (Oxford UP, 2008).  
Eileen M. Schuller.  The full version of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible included the Deuterocanonical/Aprocryphal writings contained in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, and these were included in the HarperCollins Study Bible.  The contributors of introductions and notes to these writings were overseen by Associate Editor Eileen M. Schuller.  At the time the Study Bible was begun, Eileen Schuller was a newly-appointed Associate Professor of Religious Studies at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada – full professor in 1996.  She had done her undergraduate work at Alberta in Classics, a Master’s in Near Eastern studies at the University of Toronto, and her Ph.D. at Harvard, concentrating on Dead Sea Scrolls.  She had taught at the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax before going to McMaster.  Before the Study Bible she had published Non-Canonical Psalms from Qumran (Harvard Semitic Studies, 1986) and Post-Exilic Prophets, a popular survey (Michael Glazier, 1988).  She has recently published a major review of her main area, The Dead Sea Scrolls:  What Have We Learned? (Westminster John Knox, 2006).  
The Editorial Board of the Study Bible also included a “Consulting Editor,” James Luther Mays, emeritus professor at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.  Mays was widely experienced in such publications and was a kind of dean of Old Testament studies in the Society of Biblical Literature, having been President of the Society in 1986, immediately following Wayne Meeks’ term as President.  He was presumably a voice of wisdom and counsel along the way for the editors engaged in the main enterprise.  
The Revised Edition (2006)
There were 61 contributors to the first edition of the HarperCollins Study Bible of 1993.  Twenty of them had also been contributors to the Harper Bible Commentary of 1988, though often to different Biblical writings than they dealt with in the Study Bible.  

The Revised Edition of the Study Bible, 2006, saw 18 new contributors, most of whom only reviewed and revised the work of other contributors to the first edition.  There was major continuity from the First to the Revised Editions, many contributors choosing to make no changes in their work, though a few did some serious rewriting (for example, Matthew) while the work of others was substantially revised by new contributors (for example, Joshua, Daniel, Mark).  
The old editorial team was not revived for the Revised Edition.  Instead, all editorial work was done by a new General Editor, Harold W. Attridge.  As if Attridge had nothing to do!  He had earned graduate degrees from the University of Cambridge (Marshall scholar) and Harvard University before teaching at Perkins School of Theology (1977-1985) and the University of Notre Dame, where he became Dean of the College of Arts and Letters (1985-1997).  While there his most prestigious publication came out, Hebrews, in the Hermeneia series (Fortress Press 1989).  From Notre Dame he moved to Yale Divinity School in 1997, served as President of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2001, and became Dean of the Divinity School in 2002.  His editorship of the Revised Edition of the HarperCollins Study Bible was carried out amid his deanship responsibilities.  There were no Associate Editors, and the task consisted of seeing if the original contributors were able or interested in revising their work, or in seeking new contributors to do such revising as was necessary.  And then – of course – reviewing and revising the new contributions.  
General Articles  
In the original HarperCollins Study Bible there was only one general article, Wayne Meeks’ “Introduction.”  This essay made it clear that the objective of the Study Bible was to enable the reader to “read” these ancient texts, starting with the translation, the diversity of the contents of the Biblical books, and proceeding to simple explanations of modern critical study of the scriptures, something about the communities that nurtured the scriptures, and the Society of Biblical Literature.  This essay was kept unchanged in the Revised Edition.  
The original Study Bible was probably planned with the old idea in mind that it was a partner with the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, if not also with the Bible Commentary.  So viewed, the Study Bible did not need its own general articles; they were already in the Dictionary.  

By the time of the Revised Edition, it was decided to add some general articles, and the Revised Edition of the Study Bible has the following essays at the beginning:  (1) “Strategies for Reading Scripture,” by John Barton, just over four pages; (2) “Israelite Religion,” by Ronald Hendel, five pages; (3) The Greco-Roman Context of the New Testament,” by David E. Aune, almost eight pages; (4) “The Bible and Archeology,” by Eric M. Meyers, five pages; and (5) “Archeology and the New Testament,” by Jürgen Zangenberg, five pages.  These articles are orientations to large complex areas.  The article on Israelite Religion is pretty vanilla and fails to catch most of the drama the subject is loaded with.  
Samples of Interpretation
(From the huge range of possibilities here, topics are selected that are mostly different from those discussed in reviews of other study Bibles.  NOTE:  page references are to the Revised Edition of 2006, unless otherwise stated.)  
Genesis Revisited.  Only one of the contributions to the First Edition of the HarperCollins Study Bible was completely replaced in the Revised Edition, the treatment of Genesis.  The introduction to Genesis in the First Edition had become embroiled in analyzing “symmetries” in the literary composition of the book and seriously neglected the usual kinds of information and discussion needed.  In the Revised Edition, Ronald Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at University of California Berkeley, provided an introduction with sections on “The Genesis of Genesis” on sources and composition, and “Science, History, and Genesis” on the nature of the ancient lore contained in Genesis.  The revision was an important improvement.   
The Exodus and History.  The introduction and notes on Exodus were virtually unchanged in the Revised edition of the Study Bible.  They were done by Edward L. Greenstein, then Professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.  (He was at JTSA from 1976 until 1995, when he became Professor of Biblical Studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel.)  

Prof. Greenstein emphasized that the “Biblical Context” of Exodus was covenant law and repeated covenant commitments in Israel’s history.  On the “Historical Context,” however, he recognized that multiple sources and a lot of legendary enhancement had gone into the text.  “Comparison of Exodus with folklore and myth suggests the story is already the stuff of legend.  Historical reconstruction is accordingly obstructed by a centuries-long process of literary formation that can hardly be retraced” (p. 84).  Internal Biblical references to the Exodus are relatively consistent, but external evidence of its historicity is lacking.  
External considerations lead many to place the historical exodus in the late thirteenth century BCE during the long reign of Rameses II, when numbers of Western Semites are known to have inhabited the Nile Delta and when conflicts with foreign labor are reported.  But there is no archeological record of the exodus in Egypt, and historical references in Exodus are slim, vague, or problematic.  On the other hand, a relatively large number of Egyptian personal names are found within the tribe of Levi (e.g., Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Merari, Putiel, Phinehas, Hophni).  There is therefore a basis to surmise that ancestors of some Israelites, and particularly those associated with the priestly tribe, came out of Egypt.  (Page 84.)  
Leviticus and the Holy.  The editors recruited a scholar “considered the world’s leading expert on Leviticus” (Wikipedia on “Jacob Milgrom”) to treat that Biblical book in the Study Bible.  Jacob Milgrom grew up in New York, studied at Brooklyn College and at Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and then spent most of his long career at the University of California at Berkeley, where he headed the Department of Near Eastern Studies.  He retired from Berkeley in 1994, emigrated to Israel, and continued publishing his major works.  These were the three-volume commentary on Leviticus in the Anchor Bible series (1998, 2000, 2000) and the more popular version, Leviticus:  A Book of Ritual and Ethics (Fortress Press, 2004).    
By the time Milgrom did the introduction and notes for the Study Bible his views on Leviticus were fully developed.  Thus the reader gets a succinct version of those mature conclusions.  Leviticus consists of P (Priestly) tradition, chapters 1-16, and H (Holiness) tradition, chapters17-27.  While both traditions are about holiness in Israel, P is fundamentally about holiness for priests while H is fundamentally about holiness for the people!  
For P, spatial holiness is limited to the sanctuary; for H it is coextensive with the promised land.  As for the holiness of persons, P restricts it to priests and Nazirites...; H extends it to all of Israel.  This expansion follows logically from H’s doctrine of spatial holiness:  since the land is holy, all who reside on it are to keep it that way.  All adult Israelites are enjoined to attain holiness by observing God’s commandments, and even resident aliens must heed the prohibitive commandments, the violation of which threatens to pollute the land for all (e.g., 18:26).  
...Pollution for H is nonritualistic [i.e., caused by violating commandments rather than by impersonal ritual circumstances], as shown by ... the fact that the polluted land cannot be expiated by ritual.  Violations irrevocably lead to the expulsion of its inhabitants (18:24-29; 20:22).  [Concerning the editing of P and H], the pervasive intrusion of H characteristics into the P text points to the strong possibility that H is not only subsequent to P but is also P’s redactor.  (Page 151.)  
The Book of Kings and Its “Message.”  This book is a fulcrum in the Deuteronomistic view of Israel’s history and cries out for clarity in how Israel failed in its historic destiny.  The reader gets only limited help in the HarperCollins Study Bible.  

The book of I and II Kings (there was only one scroll until it was translated into Greek) is annotated by Robert R. Wilson, noted Old Testament scholar at Yale Divinity School from 1972 on.  The problem here is that the reader gets little help with the larger units of the work. The whole of Kings has three parts:  Solomon, the Divided Kingdoms, and Judah Alone.  Each of these parts also has major sections:  Solomon (I Kings 3-11) has an A, B, C, B’, A’ layout with the Temple at C; play on Solomon’s wealth, wisdom, and administration in the B and B’ sections; and the A section is Divine Favor (chapter 3) and A’ is the Divine Disfavor (chapter 11).  This puts the “bad” part of Solomon’s reign at the end.  A similar treatment of the mass of materials dealing with Elijah, Elisha, and Jehu would help (I Kings 17-II Kings 10).  The LARGER units of narrative need to be highlighted, not just a continuous string of chapter and half-chapter units.  (The introduction has no outline of the book.)  
It is appropriate to note here that there is no standard format for the topics and sections included in the introductions to the Biblical books.  Kings has three headings in the introduction (Revised Edition):  Name and Canonical Position, Literary Character, and Message.  “Message” is a surprising term here.  What does “Message” mean in this context?  The word evokes overtones of “sermon,” message to be taken into one’s religious life.  Is that what the Society of Biblical Literature really wants to offer its academically-attuned readers?  Probably not.  The term is probably an echo from the religious past of these Biblical scholars.  (Other terms used in introductions probably with a similar meaning are “Theology,” “Significance,” and even “Content.”)
“Message” is not used in all, or even most introductions to Biblical books.  It is found in Joshua in the form “Content and Message,” here in Kings simply as “Message,” and otherwise in the Old Testament only in prophetic books:  Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah (“The Message”), Nahum, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Malachi.  People are accustomed to prophetic books having “messages.”  In the Apocrypha only III Maccabees has a “Message and Outlook.”  In the introductions to New Testament books, surprisingly no Gospels or Pauline letters have “Messages”; only the Catholic Epistles of James and I, II, and III John.  These various “Messages” are probably hangovers from confessional days still around at the academic morning after.  
Nevertheless, there is an important message for the academic scholar in the book of Kings:  the point should be driven home repeatedly that the centralization of all sacrifice at Jerusalem—for which all Judean kings are held responsible but only Hezekiah and Josiah achieve—was socially and politically impossible until Judah was a minor little state.  The entire book is structured around a utopian demand; it is projecting a late Judean cultic and political program, and a radical one at that, back onto the previous periods of the monarchy.  It was an actual program in Josiah’s time, but the commentator should not give credence to the condemnation of the ages of Solomon or Jeroboam or even of Ahab by blandly accepting that late Judean doctrine.  
The Unity of Isaiah—editing or a common tradition.  The long-standing modern division of the book of Isaiah into at least three parts, First, Second, and Third Isaiah, is treated in the Study Bible by J.J.M. Roberts, William Henry Green Professor of Old Testament (Emeritus in 2006) at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Roberts had long been an advocate of the importance of the Zion tradition in Israelite religion, and the book of Isaiah is heavily laden with that ancient urban-oriented complex.  In the Revised Edition, Roberts adds a new section to his introduction to Isaiah, entitled “An Overarching Unity.”  
In the ten to fifteen years since the first edition of the Study Bible much ink had been shed arguing for various kinds of unity between the “first” Isaiah and the later parts of the book.  Here Roberts listens to such arguments for unity and gives his own assessment.  
...[T]he evidence for a thorough, intentional, coherent editing of the book as a whole is not very persuasive.  Such reconstructions [which propose strong editorial unity throughout the book] are far more hypothetical than the reconstructions of traditional historical criticism.... Thus the opinion reflected in these notes is that the overarching unity of the book owes more to a common theological tradition in which all the authors stood than to any consistent and coherent editing the book has undergone.  The common theological tradition and the fact that the later authors were responding to and commenting on the earlier oracles in the book are sufficient explanation for the overarching unity.  (Page 914.)
Roberts retained the three sections of his old introduction, one each on First, Second, and Third Isaiah.  
Matthew Joins the Empire.  Between the First Edition of the Study Bible and its Revision in 2006, Denis Duling, Professor of Religious Studies at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, discovered that Matthew had a lot – if not to say, at least to “imply” – about the Roman Empire.  Between 1993 and 2006 others had been advancing the thesis that Matthew had an extensive subtext about the Empire, particularly Warren Carter in such publications as Matthew and Empire:  Initial Explorations (Trinity Press International, 2001) and Matthew and the Margins:  A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2003).  In 1993 Denny Duling had provided a helpful and well-balanced introduction to Matthew, which had little to say about the Roman Empire.  However, by 2006 we get the following additions to the introduction:  
The Gospel of Matthew was written by a subject of the Roman Empire, which can be described as a hierarchically ordered, commercialized, advanced agrarian (peasant) society with no middle class. [Several sentences describe the ruling classes, the underclasses, the “expendables,” subjection of women and children, rule by “client” kings, etc.]  
Political resistance to Rome in the Gospel is not overt, but nonetheless suggestively implied:  Jesus descends from King David...and is the promised Messiah;... he is a threat to Rome’s official ruling Herodian kings (ch. 2); his message is about the kingdom of heaven...; his predecessor, the prophet John the Baptizer, is executed by Rome’s appointed representative, Herod Antipas...; and, most important, his execution is by crucifixion..., a Roman penalty mainly for political rebels.  In short, though the Matthean plot is not overtly political, economic and political issues of the larger Roman Empire are not far under the surface and should not be ignored in considering the circumstances of the Gospel’s composition.  (Pages 1666-67.)  
Thus does another fad take up a lot of space in the Revised Study Bible.  
Mark, Well Introduced.  Some of the introductions of the original Study Bible were revised in 2006, not by the original contributors but by new ones.  An example of an excellent job of rewriting by another hand is the introduction to the Gospel According to Mark.  The revision was done by Adela Yarbro Collins, Buckingham Professor of New Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale Divinity School.  (She had previously been at Notre Dame and then the University of Chicago Divinity School.)  

Ms Collins left the structure of the introduction in place but rewrote most paragraphs, many very substantially.  Her work replaced general and flowing statements with precise and carefully referenced ones.  At the time she did this revision she was finishing a landmark commentary on Mark in the Hermeneia series (Fortress Press, 2007), and the decade of probing issues and settling on mature views about the genre of Mark, about its setting and occasion, and about its style and composition gives her introduction to the Revised Edition polish and authority.  She did add one new section, Relation to Other Gospels, in which she discusses and defends the Two-Source Theory, and assesses similarities and differences between Mark and John.  Her rewriting of these topics turned a satisfactory introduction into an excellent one.  
Paul’s Letters.  The major letters of Paul are well-worked territory in New Testament studies.  Leander E. Keck, a colleague of Wayne Meeks at the Yale Divinity School (Winkley Professor of Biblical Theology, emeritus in 2006) did Romans with only modest changes in the Revised Edition.  Victor Paul Furnish, University Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Perkins School of Theology, a colleague of Associate Editor Jouette Bassler, did Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, altering the introduction in the Revised Edition only by the addition of a single paragraph on “Significance.”  
Revelation.  One of the leading scholars on the New Testament and Greco-Roman literature was recruited to do Revelation in the Study Bible:  David E. Aune.  Aune had been Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Loyola University of Chicago when he first did the book of Revelation for the Study Bible.  He was in the Department of Theology at Notre Dame when the Revised Edition came out.  Aune had concluded some of the issues of the composition of the book of Revelation by seeing two editions of the work.  
In the light of conflicting evidence for the early and late date of Revelation, it seems likely that the book was actually composed and assembled in stages over many years and was only completed in its present form toward the end of the first or the early second century CE.  Though certainty is not possible, the first edition of the book probably consisted of 1.4-11; 4.1-22.5, to which 1.1-3; 1.12-3.22; 22.6-21 were added in a second edition.  (Page 2087.)  
The full versions of his arguments were presented at length in his three-volume commentary on Revelation published in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Nelson, 1997-1999).  
Some Evaluative Comments 
The HarperCollins Study Bible is the work of eighty or so established scholars from the Society of Biblical Literature.  It represents the best that professional Biblical scholarship can bring together in a single enterprise (though keeping updated is a perpetual challenge for scholars).  In book after book, one can be confident that the presentation here would be accepted in any mainline academic discussion.  The model clientele for this work is students in colleges, universities, and seminaries.  
Personal note:  For years this was my Study Bible of choice.  I literally wore out a copy of the First Edition of this work when I was doing lectionary studies from 2003 to 2005.  After three years of heavy use at the desk—no carrying around—the binding began to dissolve and hunks of pages fell out.  I mainly used the translation, which I was constantly checking against other things, but the notes at the bottom were my quick reference for other passages I knew about but needed exact citations at the moment.  I used the introductions, of course, which were usually familiar territory but you never know when a new wrinkle or a surprise will show up.  That is my testimonial to the usefulness of the HarperCollins Study Bible.  
This Study Bible has most of the features common to such works today:  Besides the essentials—the text, the introductions, the notes—it has a time-line of ancient Mesopotamia to the Roman Empire (pp. xxxiv-xxxv); it has forty or so illustrations, in-text maps, and tables (listed on p. xxix); it has eighteen color maps at the back (if they haven’t fallen out; the color maps are always the first hunk of pages to go).  On charts, it is a little surprising to still find the old W.F. Albright dates in the Chronology of the Kings of the Divided Monarchy (p. 500).  There have been many more recent chronologies and almost no one uses 922 BCE as the starting point of the divided monarchy any more.  The Revised Edition added a concise Concordance to the NRSV, containing 75 pages of triple-column tiny-print entries.  
I am ambivalent about the General Articles added to the Revised Edition, especially the Religion of Israel item.  These articles look duty-driven to me:  this is something we have to have, get someone to write them.  However, Aune’s article on the Greco-Roman world is an excellent piece, in part because it is longer than the others.  The original HarperCollins idea may have been better:  read about these things in the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary.  
On the selection of contributors:  After I have completed this review, I have a strong sense that the old original bias of the Society of Biblical Literature still broods over this work.  The northeastern United States (with southeastern Canada) is much more heavily represented than the rest of North America, either in the present locale of the scholars or as the location of their graduate studies.  One could almost say the HarperCollins Study Bible is the work of Yale University, its graduates and friends.  
Along the same line, when compared with the recent editions of the Oxford Annotated Bible, the HarperCollins work seems to represent a much higher percentage of seminary faculty, as opposed to colleges and non-seminary graduate schools.  As with the northeastern bias, one may suppose that that’s where the quality workers are, but especially when one considers that faculty members of Evangelical seminaries  are entirely omitted from the Study Bible, it seems likely that the Society includes a higher percentage of non-seminary faculty than is represented in the HarperCollins Study Bible.  
Also concerning selection of contributors, the editors recruited Jewish members of the Society to do major works in the Hebrew Bible:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Ruth are all done by Jewish scholars.  (I have deliberately not attempted a complete count of contributors by religious tradition, but those stood out.)  
Finally, some words about the mechanics of the finished product.  As with other recent revised editions of study Bibles, the Revised Edition of the HarperCollins has sacrificed legibility and ease of use in order to cram more smaller print text onto the page.  The main fonts may be smaller only in certain areas, but there is much less white space on the pages of the Revised Edition.  The margins are typically a half-inch or less.  No making notes in the margins here!  
The Revised Edition ends its text, before the Concordance, on page 2120, whereas the First Edition ended the same text on page 2346.  And this is not because there were any substantial omissions from the First to the Revised; the reverse was the case.  I found no introductions that had been shortened, but many that had been increased in length.  The margins, and size of font in some places, have been squeezed to reduce the number of pages by 225, while the actual text has increased. 

Miniscule margins, tiny print, thinner paper:  these are the prices we pay to keep the cost of the Study Bible down and the publication viably competitive.